I heard another great Geico commercial on the radio today, and one of the lines was asking about how clapping ever got started. Why would you celebrate something by hitting yourself, the announcer questioned.
It gave me pause, and I wondered “how did clapping originate?”
Forty years ago it may have been hard to answer such a question.
Today, it’s as easy as typing the question into your smartphone.
So that’s what I did, and here is what I found.
Feel free to stop reading at this point if it is something you were never curious about; to be honest, it’s not that interesting…
My first thought was to look at what Wikipedia had to say about it, but I came across a more engaging history of clapping at a site called The Theatre in Paris. Here are some fun facts from the site:
- Clapping is the most common sound that we, as humans, use without our voice chords
- the average speed of our claps ranges from 2.5-5 claps per second
- Clapping is recognized through every culture in the world, and is one of the most universal means of communication
- In Western etiquette, a study has shown that the clap of an individual actually has very little to do with that individual’s personal opinion of the quality of the performance. It has more to do with the feeling of belonging in the group that someone has just experienced something with.
- You can’t tell much about a person through their clap, like whether they’re male or female, or where they’re from. Clapping is even considered more democratic, since stomping your feet can be too disruptive, and not everyone can snap their fingers.
- Taking it way back to 6th century BC, lawmaker Kleisthénes of Athens made it so that audiences would have to clap in approval of their leader, since there were too many people to meet individually. Through this came the “applause”, the unified voices of all these people in the form of clapping together in admiration.
- A few hundred years later, in the 4th century BC came the claquer. A claquer was a person who was hired by theaters and shows to clap, cry, or laugh at the right moments in order to influence the audience’s reactions. In the 4th century Athens, competition was fierce between comedians, and claquers became a common way to sway the decision of the judges and be awarded best performance. In the Roman Empire, the practice of using applause to influence was applied to politics, and claquers were found in both courts of law and private art demonstrations
- the remnants of the claquers are now limited to television show sets and radio programs, in the form of applause symbols to tell the audience when they should be clapping
- It is considered perfectly normal to applaud a politician as he takes the stage before he even gives a speech, as a sign of approval and in recognition of past accomplishments.
- In a religious setting, applauding is very rarely heard.
- While during a play it would be deemed rude to begin applauding in the middle of the performance, one often hears clapping throughout an opera in appreciation for a particularly difficult piece of music.
And here are some additional fun facts from Wikipedia:
- The President of the United States, in his State of the Union address, is often interrupted by applause; tracking the number and duration of such interruptions has become a trend on various television news channels.
- A golf clap is a form of quiet clapping, so-named because it is the preferred form of applause for golfers; golf claps are sometimes used at other events to heckle or to show sarcasm.
- In various countries, airplane passengers often tend to applaud the landing upon completion of a flight and when they have felt the plane’s wheels’ touchdown and have run a short but satisfactory course down the runway.
And here is my favorite:
- In German-speaking countries, it is customary for university students to rap their knuckles on the desks after each lecture.
I may need to figure out a way for my students to start such a tradition at the end of my lectures. Of course, the first thing I would have to do is wake them up…